Friday, December 14, 2007

Calming the Chaos of the Season

Doesn't it seem like December just snuck up on us? Before we even had time to take the Thanksgiving decorations down, we found ourselves in the midst of menorahs being lit, Christmas carols being sung and presents being wrapped.

We weren't even into the second week of December and people were already saying, "I just need to get through this month." Why is it that we are more focused on "getting through" the holidays then we are on enjoying them?

Before things get too crazy, consider 10 tips for calming the chaos of the season.
  1. Slow down.Have you been one to say, "I just need to get through this month?" If so, stop what you are doing right now and think about how that feels. Slow the pace down, even just a bit, and recognize that you have control over how the holidays will feel in your life.
  2. Breathe. Now that you've decided to slow down, it's important that you actually breathe. Whenever you feel the pressure increase or the negative thinking appear, take three deep breaths and remember that you get to choose whether these days feel crazy or enjoyable.
  3. Get clear about what the purpose of the season is for you. Is it to give gifts or get gifts? Is it to honor your religious traditions? To connect with family and friends? To rejoice in life? Connect to what this time of year really means to you. Hold that purpose in the forefront of your mind as you make decisions about what gifts to buy for whom and which events to say yes to attending.
  4. Set your intention as to how you want to BE this season. Now that you know what the purpose of the season is for you, declare how you want to be. Do you want to be joyful, peaceful, inspired, or connected? Or do you want to be stressed, grumpy, frazzled, or distracted? There may be some family or work obligations that you feel you just can't choose to say no to. However, you can choose how you will show up and what you will put out into the world. Choose wisely, as we often attract what we project.
  5. Focus more on the “I want to’s” and less on the “I should do’s”. Many of us operate out of obligation, whether we know it or not. Make a list of all the things on your plate this month. Next to each item mark whether you really want to do it or you think you should do it. If you don’t like to do it and you don’t want to do it, challenge yourself to strike it from your list.
  6. Simplify. You don’t have to do it all; and you don’t have to do it all perfectly. Streamline your plans; shorten your gift-giving list; ask for help; eliminate the excess.
  7. Set gift-giving guidelines. This goes hand-in-hand with the idea of simplifying. When you figure out what you want to do and determine how you are going to go about doing it, you simply the entire gift-giving process. Agree with the relatives that you will exchange only one toy per child. Discuss the idea of doing something with family instead of exchanging gifts that no one wants. Determine how much money you want to spend based on your budget before you begin shopping. Go in with a plan and the process will feel easier and more enjoyable.
  8. Shoot for connection, not perfection. When we get caught up in doing it “just so” we all too often are focused on the wrong things. Whether you are decorating the tree, making a holiday meal with your mother-in-law, picking out gifts, or ordering the holiday cards, what is important is the connection you are making with the person or people involved. Let your child hang the ornament wherever he likes, use the time in the kitchen to ask your mother-in-law about her youth, pick out a gift for someone from your heart, and consider what you want those receiving your holiday card to feel when they open it. Whether any of those things turn out perfect is less important then the memory you are creating and the relationship you are nurturing.
  9. Give a gift to yourself. This is the season for caring, sharing, and loving. Why not turn a bit of that in your own direction? Instead of waiting for someone else to get you the perfect gift, why not give it to yourself? I am not talking about a material gift, although maybe that would be nice as well. Instead, I am talking about the gift of time. Give yourself some time to slow down, breath, relax, and rejuvenate. It’s the gift that will keep on giving as you will feel more positive and energetic and better able to enjoy the holidays.
  10. And did I mention slow down and breathe?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Tune Your Tone

Have you ever noticed how the first few seconds of interaction with someone can set the tone for the entire conversation?

I just had one of those reminders from a brief phone exchange with my husband. I had called him at lunchtime with the intention of checking in and seeing how he was doing. I was feeling good about the day and excited about reaching him.

However, it took no longer than 30 seconds of hearing his voice to bring me down. I realize this doesn’t sound so good, but I am being honest. Plus, there’s a point to all of this and hopefully a reminder that we can all use to improve our communication with others.

Little did I know that my husband was having a frustrating morning, but he was and I just so happened to catch him it at a particularly frustrating moment. And it only took me asking the wrong question in the wrong way at the wrong time for him to snap.

He snapped. I got defensive. And the rest of the conversation went downhill from there.

What caught my attention was how the tone of that conversation set off the tone of further conversations with him later in the day. My email regarding some scheduling stuff was “strictly business” instead of my normal loving tone. And even after that we had a brief Instant Message exchange that lacked the intimacy and connection we are use to.

Why did the first 30 seconds of one conversation with my husband impact me so much? Because in our relationship how we are with each other—our level of connection, intimacy and positive exchange—is often the temperature gauge for the other areas of our life. If "we" (our relationship) are off, we both feel off in general.

My husband I have discussed this before. We know that how we greet each other when one of us walks in the door has a huge impact on how the rest of the evening will go. We have both made an effort to remember this and to stop what we are doing, welcome the other person home with open arms and a kiss so that we can help set the tone for a loving and connected evening. It only takes a few moments and it makes such a huge difference.

As for that phone conversation earlier today, my husband has apologized for taking his frustration out on me. We agreed that it wasn’t our best interaction and that we are looking forward to reconnecting when he gets home tonight.

My point: Good relationships take good communication. Good communication doesn’t always come easily…especially when you are tired, frustrated, sick or irritated. Choosing to tune your tone towards the positive when you first connect with someone can mean the difference between a positive and fulfilling conversation or a negative and unsatisfying conversation. Which will you choose?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Menu and Easy Recipe of the Week: Taco Soup

After what felt like too much food and not enough physical activity last week with family in town and in celebration of my husband's birthday and Thanksgiving, we have decided to go with a pretty basic menu this week.

Sunday: Taco Soup (see recipe below)
Monday: Leftover Taco Soup
Tuesday: Baked Salmon with Pesto Marinade, Steamed Asparagus and Pasta
Wednesday: Baked Chicken with Teriyaki marinade, Steamed Broccoli and Brown Rice
Thursday: Cheese Tortellini with Grilled Chicken and Marinara Sauce and Salad
Friday: Pancakes, Eggs, Turkey Bacon and Fruit
Saturday: OPEN

Taco Soup
1 pound ground beef or turkey
1 med onion, finely chopped
2 cans corn, drained (or frozen corn)
2 cans kidney beans, drained
2 cans rotel tomatoes (this is a specific brand with chilies and seasoning included)
2 cans chicken broth (low sodium)
1 packet taco seasoning

Sour cream
Cheddar cheese (grated)
Tortilla chips
  1. Brown meat in large pan and drain.
  2. Combine all ingredients in large pot.
  3. Heat through on medium heat until hot.
  4. Let each person top with grated cheese, sour cream, avacado and chips (depending on what they like).
  • This soup makes plenty for leftovers or to be frozen.
  • This soup tends to be even better the second day.
  • When made with the Rotel Tomatoes, this soup does have a spicy bite to it. To make it more kid friendly, you can use plain, diced tomatoes without chilies.
  • If your child(ren) don't like things mixed together, you can also leave out some of the meat, beans, corn and make your child(ren) a plate with a little of everything separated.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Worth Passing On

I love reading about The Happiness Project, written by Gretchen Rubin. I thought one of her recent posts was worth passing along, especially during this particularly busy time of year.

Twelve tips for stopping the buzz in your brain.

We all know the feeling of being overwhelmed, of being beset by distractions.

The problem is – too many things are clamoring for your attention. People are trying to reach you, by phone, email, text or IM. There are the interesting subjects you want to learn more about, on the TV or the internet or the newspaper. Noises in the background occasionally catch your ear, from the TV or radio. Your kids all talk at the same time. Colleagues interrupt. You need to update, check in, post, or ping. Ads jump at you from the most unlikely places. Devices ping, buzz, ring, and vibrate.

It’s enough to drive you crazy. You lose your train of thought, you forget what you’re doing, you have trouble re-engaging in a task, you feel besieged.

But there are steps you can take to quiet the buzz in your brain – even if you don’t want to take up meditation.

In addition to feeling calmer and more focused, you’ll probably be more efficient, too. Turns out that people aren’t very good at thinking about two things at once.

A recent study showed that when people responded to email or IM, it took about fifteen minutes for them to resume a serious mental task.

Many of the following suggestions are fairly draconian. “No iPod?!” “A silent cell phone?!” But you’ll notice a difference in your day. Really consider whether you might be able to go a day or a week without some of these distractions.

  • If you keep the TV turned on in the background – while you’re getting dressed, say – turn it off.
  • Turn off the radio, too. Even in the car.
  • Don’t bring your iPod.
  • I have a sticky note in my bedroom that reads, “Quiet mind.” Whenever I see it, I drop my shoulders, relax my jaw, and try to smooth out my thoughts. It actually works.
  • During family time, divide up your children among adults. If possible, have one child per adult.
  • No multi-tasking. Don’t talk on the phone while you’re doing dishes, don’t check your email while you listen to a conference call, don’t sort the mail while your child explains the school project that’s due next week.
  • Turn your cell phone ringer off. Hearing your cell phone ring – or even imaging that you’re hearing it ring – is a big source of jumpiness.
  • Take a break from doing errands. Keep a list, but don’t try to fit them in throughout your day.
  • Stop looking in the mirror for a week.
  • Only use the internet to look up a specific piece of information; once you find it, step away from the computer. No jumping from link to link, no browsing.
  • Twyla Tharp had an interesting approach: occasionally, for a week, she’d “stop counting.” She avoided looking at clocks, contracts, bank statements, bathroom scales, or anything to do with numbers, in order to let the other part of her brain take over.
  • Flee temptation. I find it hard to work in my home office, because my family, the phone, my email, and the internet constantly beguile me away from my work. So I work at the New York Society Library, where I’m not set up for internet and where they enforce a strict rule of silence.
It’s important to have space in which to think.

Yesterday, I overheard someone complain, “I left my Blackberry at home, so I was so bored during my cab ride home. I just had to sit there.”

There are few things that I love more than looking out the window of a taxi. One day, when I was gazing out of a taxi window, I was struck by a thought: “What do I want out of life?” “Well,” I thought, “I want to be happy.” It occurred to me that I never thought about whether I was happy or not, or how I could be happier, or even what it meant to be happy. “Zoikes,” I thought, “I should have a happiness project!”

If I’d been checking my Blackberry, I might never have had the idea for the happiness project.

Written by Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

My Most Perfect Imperfection

(This is a re-post from an previous blog of mine.)

perfect: complete in all respects; without defect or omission; sound; flawless*
imperfections: a shortcoming; defect; fault; blemish*

Being a perfectionist came in handy in many regards as a busy, child-less professional. I’ve always had high standards and I used my need and desire for things to be ‘just so’ to help me succeed in life.

I now consider myself a recovering perfectionist.

You see, I have spent nearly my entire life trying to be perfect. I know I am not alone in this attempt. I have tried to be the perfect daughter, perfect friend, perfect sister, perfect granddaughter, perfect student, perfect employee, perfect manager, perfect businesswoman, perfect wife, and eventually, perfect mother. Frankly, I have tried to be the perfect person. Constantly attempting to know what I needed to say and do to be seen as 'perfect' or the best by those around me. Not that I wasn't necessarily real or honest (although sometimes I was neither), but rather more of an enigma. Shifting, molding and camouflaging to be what I thought others wanted me to be.

I have made huge strides in challenging my past perfectionism behavior (thanks to a great deal of my own personal growth and coaching training for my business), but I still find myself sometimes slipping into my hold habits of wanting to please others before being true to myself. So it comes as no surprise to me that the Universe dealt me the most 'perfect' situation to test my life lesson of letting go of perfectionism.

Lindsay Campbell Taggart was born with one little ear. One normal. One not normal. One perfect. One not perfect.

I can remember the moment that the nurse showed us her ear after she was delivered. I was still on an adrenaline high from birthing our little girl that, really, it all seems like a dream. "I need to show you a few things about your baby," the nurse said. "As you can see, one of her ears is different...."

Honestly, I don't remember anything else she said after that. I just remember looking at my baby and then looking at my husband and asking him repeatedly, "Is she okay? Is she okay?"

He told me "yes" while he kissed my forehead. I am sure he was trying to convince himself just has much as he was trying to convince me. Over the next few hours, with the excitement of family visiting, Lindsay meeting her big sister and the ear being conveniently hidden behind the tiny, striped hospital-issued hat, I seemed to forget that my baby was not perfect.

The next morning I was harshly reminded as the woman responsible for providing my newborn with her hearing test tells us, "we will only be able to test the ear that's not weird."

Gulp. What? Did I just hear someone call my baby weird? Why my mommy instincts didn't kick in to defend my precious child, I don't know. Perhaps it was the exhaustion. Perhaps it was shock. Perhaps it was denial. Whatever it was, it gave me a taste of what may be in store for us.

The emotions around my baby not being born 'perfect' really didn't hit me until a few days after bringing her home from the hospital. I was sitting on the couch nursing when I looked down, saw my daughter's "lucky ear" (as it was so sweetly named by her grandparents, similar to Nemo's lucky fin) and started sobbing.

Unless you have been a mother yourself, you can not imagine the magnitude of grief felt when you realize that YOUR BABY WAS NOT BORN PERFECT. I know; there are people out there dealing with much worse things. I know the rational and logical side that things "could have been worse." But sometimes you have to deal with the emotion before you can get to the rational side. No matter what you tell yourself or no matter what others tell you, everyone EXPECTS and hopes their baby will be born perfect.

Jump forward two and a half years. I came to realize (rather quickly I must say) over Lindsay's life that we got just what we asked for: a happy and healthy child. In fact, I think (and I admit this is a biased opinion) that she is one of the happiest and healthiest kids around. You will often find her smiling from ear to ear, proud of whatever trick she just mastered or just simply thrilled that you walked into the room.

It has become easy to nearly forget about her ear. She has been diagnosed with a moderate to severe hearing loss on that side, but there has been no indication that it is negatively impacting her development. In fact, during her last speech evaluation at 24 months they told us she was talking at the level expected for a 36-month-old. I mention that not to brag (okay, maybe a little bit), but to make the point that despite what we were originally told or thought, she has already exceeded medical expectations. It's obvious that she is growing, developing and thriving and shows all signs of hearing the world around her just as she should.

I’ll admit, every once in awhile it still hits me and I find myself crying over my daughter’s 'imperfection'. Like the time we met with the craniofacial plastic surgeon to talk about options for both removing the skin tag on Lindsay's face and fixing her little, lucky ear. Perhaps I was more surprised by the reality of what correcting (and I use that word loosely) either of them would entail. Without going into all the detail, let's just say words such as, "arm splints," "multiple surgeries," cartilage from the rib," and "incisions" were thrown out.

And here is my point. My husband and I both left that appointment with the same Knowing. Now is not the time to do anything to "correct" Lindsay's skin tag or ear. As my husband so sweetly said, "What if this is just the way Lindsay is supposed to be?"

My thought exactly. Considering that any of the surgeries would be for cosmetic purposes only, what would I be telling my daughter? "You are not good enough with your imperfection. You were born just they way you were supposed to be...except for your weird ear. Trying to be perfect is better than just being who you are?"

Instead, at this moment, I want my daughter to know that the affirmations I said to her while she was inside me are true.

We are connected. And you are whole. And I love you just as you are. My most perfect imperfection.

*Definitions courtesy of Webster's New World Dictionary, Third Edition

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Menu (sort of) and Easy Recipe of the Week: Cranberry Chicken

I believe strongly in the concept of creating structure (i.e. a weekly dinner menu) to ones life in order to provide greater ease and less stress. However, I also believe strongly that flexibility with the structure is necessary in order to go-with-the-flow and roll-with-the-punches of life with small children.

Thus, after a long episode of child sickness, followed by six nights of my husband being out of town, this week is an abbreviated menu which has revolved around ease, ease and more ease.

Sunday: Mac & Cheese with Tuna and Peas (which we didn't end up having last week)
Monday: Leftovers from the weekend
Tuesday: Grilled Cheese and Turkey Sandwiches with Butternut Squash & Apple Soup (thank God for Trader Joe's)
Wednesday: Spinach & Cheese Ravioli with Marinara Sauce, Bread and Salad
Thursday: TBD after my husband comes home tomorrow
Friday: TBD
Saturday: TBD

See how I did that? I didn't have enough energy to figure out what we were going to eat each night this week. I decided that it was okay to simply get through meals until my husband is home tomorrow and then he can provide input, support and back-up. A year ago I would have felt guilty doing this. Not now. Now I am proud of myself for getting through the solo days with my child alive and my sanity in check.

Cranberry Chicken with Rice or Cous Cous
4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 bottle French dressing
1 can whole cranberry sauce
1 packet onion soup mix
1 box rice pilaf or cous cous
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Mix French dressing, cranberry sauce and onion soup mix in mixing bowl; marinate the chicken in advance if you can (if not, not a problem).
  3. Put chicken in baking dish and cover with mixture, making sure to cover all sides of meat.
  4. Bake chicken for 50-60 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.
  5. While chicken is baking, prepare rice or cous cous as directed on box.
  6. Steam your favorite green veggie to complete the meal.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Three Little Words

I had the pleasure of meeting singer and songwriter, Karen Drucker, recently and have been listening to her positive and inspiring music ever since. There are many of her songs that I really enjoy and which give me a great pick-me-up when I need it. I love the concept behind her song "Three Little Words" off her latest album, SHINE.

The song is about three-word phrases which can mean so much in our lives. As she says, "three little words that can heal my life and help me get out of my way."

Life is good.
Let it go.
Play full out.
Yes I can.
Tell me more.
I am blessed.
Be here now.
I love you.

Here are some more I thought of today:
I deserve it.
Take a breath.
I am sorry.
It's good enough.
I choose this.
Can I help?

Can you think of any more simple, yet powerful 3-word phrases which we should consider saying on a regular basis to ourselves or others?

Inspiring Words

I just received this forwarded message from my aunt. I thought it was a cute piece and some great reminders about life. Enjoy!

George Carlin's Views on Aging

Do you realize that the only time in our lives when we like to get old is
when we're kids? If you're less than 10 years old, you're so excited about
aging that you think in fractions.

"How old are you?" "I'm four and a half!" You're never thirty-six and a
half. You're four and a half, going on five! That's the key

You get into your teens, now they can't hold you back. You jump to the next
number, or even a few ahead.

"How old are you?" "I'm gonna be 16!" You could be 13, but hey, you're gonna
be 16! And then the greatest day of your life . . You become 21. Even the
words sound like a ceremony . YOU BECOME 21. YESSSS!!!

But then you turn 30. Oooohh, what happened there? Makes you sound like bad
milk! He TURNED; we had to throw him out. There's no fun now, you're Just a
sour-dumpling. What's wrong? What's changed?

You BECOME 21, you TURN 30, then you're PUSHING 40 Whoa! Put on the brakes,
it's all slipping away. Before you know it, you REACH 50 and your dreams are

But wait!!! You MAKE it to 60. You didn't think you would!

So you BECOME 21, TURN 30, PUSH 40, REACH 50 and MAKE it to 60.

You've built up so much speed that you HIT 70! After that it's a day-by-day
thing; you HIT Wednesday!

You get into your 80's and every day is a complete cycle; you HIT lunch; you
TURN 4:30 ; you REACH bedtime. And it doesn't end there. Into the 90s, you
start going backwards; "I Was JUST 92."

Then a strange thing happens. If you make it over 100, you become a little
kid again. "I'm 100 and a half!"
May you all make it to a healthy 100 and a half!!

1. Throw out nonessential numbers. This includes age, weight and height. Let
the doctors worry about them. That is why you pay "them."

2. Keep only cheerful friends. The grouches pull you down.

3. Keep Le arning. Learn more about the computer, crafts, gardening,
whatever. Never let the brain idle. "An idle mind is the devil's workshop."
And the devil's name is Alzheimer's.

4. Enjoy the simple things.

5. Laugh often, long and loud. Laugh until you gasp for breath.

6. The tears happen. Endure, grieve, and move on. The only person, who is
with us our entire life, is ourselves. Be ALIVE while you are alive.

7. Surround yourself with what you love , whether it's fami ly, pets,
keepsakes, music, plants, hobbies, whatever. Your home is your refuge.

8. Cherish your health: If it is good, preserve it. If it is unstable,
improve it. If it is beyond what you can improve, get help.

9. Don't take guilt trips. Take a trip to the mall, even to the next county;
to a foreign country but NOT to where the guilt is.

10. Tell the people you love that you love them , at every opportunity.

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments
that take our breath away.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Menu and Easy Recipe of the Week: Salmon with Tarrgon Cheese Sauce

I addition to sharing an easy recipe of the week, I thought I'd also share our menu for the week. Hope this sparks some new ideas for you!

However, I am warning you that my mission for the weeknights is 'Easy Does It'. In fact, after last week I have a new menu rule: No new recipes during the week. Trying new recipes is for the weekends only!

  • Sunday: Moroccan Chicken Stew (A new recipe Bill and I made together--it's a keeper!)
  • Monday: Leftover Moroccan Chicken Stew
  • Tuesday: Broiled Salmon Steaks with Tarragon Cheese Sauce and Asparagus (See Easy Recipe of the Week below.)
  • Wednesday: Macaroni and Cheese with Tuna and Peas (A recipe handed down from my dad.)
  • Thursday: Cranberry Chicken with Rice Pilaf and Green Beans
  • Friday: Leftover Cranberry Chicken
  • Saturday: Pizza with Peas and Corn

Recipe: Broiled Salmon Steaks with Tarragon Cheese Sauce
1 1/4 pounds fresh or frozen salmon steaks (about 3/4 inch think)
1/2 cup plain yogurt or light sour cream (I usually use sour cream)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (2 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon, crushed (or 2 teaspoons snipped fresh)
ground black pepper
Hot cooked pasta

  1. Thaw fish, if frozen. Rinse fish; pat dry. Cut fish steaks into 4 equal portions, if necessary.
  2. Stir together the yogurt or sour cream, cheese and tarragon. Set aside.
  3. Place fish on unheated rack of broiler pan. Sprinkle fish with sal dna ground black pepper. Broil 4 inches from the heat for 6 to 9 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.
  4. Spoon yogurt/sour cream mixture over fish steaks. Broil 30 to 60 seconds more or until heated through and cheese starts to melt.
  5. If desired, serve over hot pasta and add a favorite green vegetable as a side.

Monday, November 5, 2007


Q. When is it time to ask for help?

A. When your kid won't stop crying and you feel like you may lose it.

That was me today. As I explained in my previous post, Lindsay has been sick. More then five days of her being congested, hot, whiny, temperamental and clingy. Fortunately, today her fever is gone and the coughing has subsided a bit, but the happy, easy, pleasant, cooperative little girl who lived with us just a week ago has still yet to reappear.

After battle number 15--this one relating to what she did or did not want to eat, which came after what she did and did not want to wear--I finally had to walk away. I put her on her bed; I told her that she could stay there and cry if she wanted to but that I could not help her until she could tell me what she wanted in her "Big Girl" voice. I walked away. This was an alternative to yelling, "STOP CRYING; I CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE!"

I knew that if I tried to figure out what she needed one more time; if I was in that close of proximity to the whining and crying much longer that I would snap. At that point, the Wise Mother Within said, "it's okay to walk away."

Which I did. And I called my husband and shared with him how I was feeling. And by the time I got off the phone and went to check on Lindsay, she was asleep.

Yes, the fact that she fell asleep at 11:00 in the morning may throw off the rest of the day, but we both got what we really needed. Lindsay must have needed some sleep and I know I needed some time to myself.

Turning inward and asking what you need to get through a tough moment (or multiple moments) is a practice in mindful parenting. A practice that is sometimes easier to identify in hind-sight then in the heat of the moment. But when I do practice mindful parenting, each time I am rewarded by an easier (and more positive) answer then I would have come up with in the heat of the moment.

Today reminded me that I not only need to ask for help and support from others, but more importantly, that my first distress signal should be sent to myself.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Help Wanted

Life has been a bit on hold the past few days beyond being in full mommy mode to a sick child. Since Wednesday Lindsay has been up and down with a fever and today ended with her throwing up all over me and the Walgreens floor while picking up a prescription to hopefully help her feel better.

Yes, I can now add having my child throw up down my shirt to the list of life's great experiences. And when I say down I really mean down--like I don't think my white bra will ever be the same again. Fortunately, I've been carrying around an extra set of clothes for Lindsay in my bag ever since she stopped wearing diapers. I think the most disappointing thing about the entire experience was that no one offered to help me. No one. I had to flag down two different store employees. The first one just handed me a roll of paper towels and walked away. The second one did tell me to just leave it and she called for clean-up. But none of the other customers even acknowledged me. I wasn't hard to miss. I was the disheveled mom in aisle 6 with throw up on and down her shirt and the sobbing 2 year old with tears and snot running down her face next to her. I know everyone knew what was going on. But no one helped. No one even went to get a store employee.

Today's experience has made me wonder what I would have done if I had been watching someone going through what I went through. I would hope that I would have offered to help or taken some action to support a fellow mother, woman, human. My 7 year-old step-daughter even noticed that no one helped. I find this interesting and sad.

But enough about that. Just know I am still here. And still moving my body when I can, but other things are taking my time right washing my bra!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Too much of a good thing?

Today was one of those days when I had a few too many really great things packed a little too closely together. From 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. I was doing just what it is I love to do: having deep and inspiring conversations with people I enjoy. However, without a break between appointments or time to eat, I literally felt ill by the end of the day.

So now I have learned a very valuable lesson. That because of who I am and the type of relationships I choose to have (both personally and professionally), it is extremely important for me to balance out my days between connection with others and time by myself to recharge. It seems sort of silly, but I am thinking that I will start scheduling in my "recharge time" between appointments and conversations with others.

Tomorrow I get to try it all again!

Day Five: Move-My-Body Challenge

Saturday morning was such a perfect family morning. After a yummy breakfast out, we headed over to the Berkeley Marina. I am a bit embarrassed to admit that this was our first experience there in our four and a half years of living in the Bay Area. We didn't really know what to expect, but my instinct told me that it was the place for us to go for a stroll by the water.

I am not sure how long we walked, skipped, ran, danced and laughed because I was too caught up in the magic of the experience with Bill and the girls. But I do know that I am counting this as my "move-my-body" experience for the day. If you haven't been to the pier at the Berkeley Marina yet, I definitely recommend it. I am guessing that it's about a mile long; jetting straight out into the bay. It feels as if you've walked half-way to San Francisco. We played our way down the pier and back, stopping every-so-often to look at the birds, count the boats and cheer the fishermen on (we even saw a boy catch a sting ray!).

How did I feel during: In the moment; happy; connected to my family; in awe by the length of the pier and beauty of the still bay.

How did I feel afterwards: Thrilled that I had followed my instinct to try the marina on that particular morning and achieved moving my body in such a fun and enjoyable way with Bill and the girls.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Reaching Out

I recently threw a couple of Life Purpose Parties with my friend and hand-analysis Laura Kennedy (more about that in a future post). I found it interesting, and yet not surprising, that nearly everyone who participated said that connection (connecting with self, with others and with nature) was a key component of passion, joy and pleasure in their lives.

What does surprise me is how much we limit the opportunities for connection (again, with our self, others and nature) because we are so busy trying to do so many things. I realize this relates a bit to my previous post, but what prompted my post today was this article.

The article claims that having a strong social network can help you deal with stresses of everyday life. I find this to be true, if (and this is a big if) I choose to spend time with people who help fill me up rather then drain me. There's such a big difference between connecting with people who you enjoy being around, you feel good being around and with whom you feel a--well--connection, versus those who leave you feeling overwhelmed, undermined and empty.

Perhaps it's less about how many people we have connections with and more about the depth of those connections. That and consciously choosing to reach out to those people in order to further develop the relationship, grow the community and feel the connection that feeds our soul.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Turn It Off

I was very proud of my husband last night when he decided to turn off the baseball game (he is a huge Red Sox fan, so I know this was probably challenging for him) in order to focus on reading to Ella, my step-daughter. You should have seen the smile on her face when her dad clicked off the TV and said, "this is Ella time."

It seems as if we have all become master multi-taskers. We have been taught, and now believe, that we are more successful when we are doing multiple tasks at once. However, it has occurred to me that a result of our need to be doing more then one thing at a time is a loss of depth and connection with ourselves and those around us.

Yes, I may be able to accomplish more faster if I am responding to a work email while discussing the weekend's plans on the phone with my husband or talking to my mom on my cell phone while pushing my daughter on the swing, but what it is costing me?

It costs me an opportunity to be in the moment and fully connect with one other person. The email response is shorter and more abrupt and there are typos because I wasn't fully paying attention. My husband gets frustrated because I don't remember what we decided on. My mom keeps getting interrupted as I deal with my daughter. And my daughter is playing at the park with a mom who is not available to play with her.

Seeing the look on Ella's face when her dad declared that the following 15 minutes was her time and not her time shared with the TV (or anything else for that matter) reminded me of how important it is to make the conscious choice to choose connection--choose the relationship. Not all the time, but some of the time. Turn off the technology (or one piece of the technology) and give just one thing or one person your undivided attention. Especially when it comes to kids, sometimes even just 15 minutes of an adult (preferably their parent) focusing just on them with no other distractions is enough to last them an entire day (or longer).

Try it out. The next time you find yourself doing more than one thing at once, especially in the area of communication with others, see what if feels like to turn something off and choose one task or person to give your focus to.

Day Four: Move-My-Body Challenge

Another day down. Today was a 30 minute walk pushing Lindsay in the stroller: 15 minutes up to Starbuck's to meet a friend and her son and 15 minutes back. Who says you can't incorporate some coffee and socialization into your daily exercise?!

How did I feel beforehand: Well, at first I felt like I was cheating a bit because it wasn't going to be a "real workout". However, then it occurred to me that my goal isn't to work-out each day or even to loose weight. My goal is to simply move my body each day for at least 30 minutes. That is such a shift in my thinking; it's less about the outcome and more about enjoying the journey on a daily basis (isn't that the secret of life?).

How I felt during: Since I had gone with the comfy sweats and running shoes, it made it easy to pick up the pace (that and the fact that I was running late meeting my friend). I loved the feeling of walking briskly down the street with the sun shining and the leaves crunching under my feet. I also loved sharing the experience with Lindsay.

How I felt afterwards: Happy that I walked instead of drove. Happy that I had incorporated moving my body into social and mommy time. I've also felt motivated all day to do a bit more. I plan to do the Abs Diet weight routine while watching "The Office" tonight.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Bring Back that Love'n Feel'n

My husband and I had a recent conversation about how easy it's become to forget to do the little things to show each other that we care. It's not something that I really wanted to admit, but it had been nagging at me that neither of us were making the effort to say, "I love you" in the sweet and romantic ways we once use to.

I know, I know; many people say that's just what happens over time in relationships. And when you add young kids to the mix, time and attention between the two adults in the house becomes even more limited. But, honestly, that's just not OK with me. I like the way it feels to get those sweet, romantic reminders that my husband is thinking of me. Even when it's just him surprising me with my guilty pleasure of a celebrity magazine tucked away in the grocery bag, it feels good.

But it goes both ways. Whether it's leaving a note on his pillow when I leave for a trip or sending him a loving email message at work, I now realize that for us, consciously choosing to do the little things helps us feel more connected. It can become all too easy to get caught up in life and expect our relationships to just continue on auto-pilot without much effort or attention on our part. But creating, continuing and growing a loving, fulfilling relationship requires attention and appreciation...and the little gestures along the way that say, "I choose you again today."

Day Three: Move-My-Body Challenge

Completed. Done. Mission accomplished.

Today was another 40 minutes of alternating fast walking for one song and jogging for the next.

How did I feel beforehand: Although I was dressed and ready to go I nearly aborted the plan because I thought my Nano was out of juice. Ends up it wasn't; so I got my rear in gear and out the door. It was a good reminder for me that I really do enjoy exercising more when I've got some tunes to keep me company.

How did I feel during: Pretty good. I added a bit more distance today and could feel myself slowing down towards the end of the jogging songs, but my goal is not to run fast, win a race or burn a gazillion calories. Rather, it's simply to find enjoyable ways to move my body on a regular basis.

How did I feel afterwards: Pretty darn good. I was just telling Bill how surprised I am that in just three days of regular body movement I can feel a difference in my muscles. They actually feel stronger. I think they are saying, "thanks for giving me the opportunity to move and stretch today; much appreciated."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Day Two: Move-My-Body Challenge

I've got a couple minutes to post before heading out the door to get the little one at day care.

WooHoo for me for day number two of the Move-My-Body Goal! Today was approximately 40 minutes of "strength training," which translates to some varying exercises in my living room while watching the show, Brothers and Sisters, on DVR. I did sit-ups, push-ups, squats, and other fun things with some 5 pound weights (hey, at least it's a start). Actually, I followed the routine from the Abs Diet for Women book.

How did I feel beforehand: Honestly, I was dragging my feet and kept putting it off. Instead of doing it at 8:30 a.m. after dropping Lindsay off at day care liked I had planned, I didn't start it until 12:30 p.m. after doing some work and having some client calls. But I got it done never-the-less and that's what matters.

How did I feel during: Using my muscles felt good and it was nice to have the distraction of the TV; it helped the time fly by.

How did I feel afterwards: Great! I could feel the workout in my muscles and felt proud of myself for not giving in to the procrastination completely.

An aside: It really does help to be taking this day-by-day. When I find myself beginning to wonder how long I'll keep it up, or what I'll do two days from now or what will happen if I get bored of some type of exercise, I've found it helpful to stop and remind myself that all I need to worry about is today. And then once I finally did it today I was able to say, "Okay, done for today....don't have to think about that anymore...until tomorrow."

Easy Recipe of the Week: Lasagna

Extra-Easy Lasagna

3/4 pound ground beef (or turkey)
3 cups marinara sauce (recipe calls for Prego Traditional)
6 dry lasagna noodles
1 15 oz. container ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (8 oz. package)
Fresh or chopped frozen spinach (defrosted and drained)
1/4 cup water
  1. Cook meat until browned; stir to separate. Spoon/drain off fat.
  2. Add marinara sauce; heat through; stir often.
  3. In 2-quart oblong dish (this is smaller then a 9x13 baking dish), spread 1 1/2 cups of marinara mixture (half the mixture) on bottom of dish.
  4. If using fresh spinach, mix into ricotta by using a food processor. If using chopped frozen spinach, mix defrosted and drained mix in with the ricotta cheese using a fork.
  5. Top with 3 noodles, half the ricotta and half the mozzarella cheese.
  6. Repeat with 3 more noodles, remaining ricotta mixture and cheese (leave a small amount of mozzarella out to use on top).
  7. Top with remaining marinara mixture and sprinkle with small amount of mozzarella cheese.
  8. Slowly pour 1/4 cup water around the inside edge of the dish and cover.
  9. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 10 minutes.
  10. Let sit for at least 10 minutes before serving.
  • Find ways to alter this recipe for variety and varying tastes. Last night I used sweet Italian Sausage, which everyone (including my 2 1/2 year-old) liked. Often I use the Traditional Prego sauce, but sometimes I use the Trader Joe's Vodka Marinara Sauce, which provides a creamy taste and consistency. Add lots of spinach if you like. Add less or no spinach if you like. Play around with it, be creative and find ways to get healthy foods into your families bellies. You can throw nearly anything into a food processor with the ricotta and most will never know.
  • Although this recipe doesn't take long to make, you can eliminate the dinner-time chaos by making this in advance and then just cooking it an hour before it's time to eat. This is necessary for those who work outside the home and don't have time to make and bake the dish after work. Make the recipe as indicated above; however, leave out the water until you are ready to cook it. Yesterday morning I made the lasagna and then covered it and wrote a reminder on the top to add 1/4 cup water (I've forgotten to add the water before). When I got home at 5:30 p.m. I added the water, put the foil back on and stuck it in the over. A delicious dinner was on the table by 6:30 p.m. (including some warm bread I stuck in the oven while the lasagna was cooling and a Cesar salad from a bag.
  • Enjoy a no-brainer dinner night as a result of making this dish. Depending on your family size, you should end up with plenty of lasagna left over for an easy, no-brainer meal the next night. Or freeze the remaining to use over the next few weeks when you don't want to cook.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

How do you explain the concept of inanimate objects to a 2 year old?

I was inside the house while Lindsay was outside playing in the backyard.

"Mommy, I want to take the wagon for a walk."

"Fine, walk it around the back yard."

Screams heard. I go running.

"Lindsay, what is wrong?"

"The wagon won't listen to me."

Day One: Move-My-Body Challenge

It did it! After dropping off my daughter at day care this morning I did about 30 minutes of "interval training" (alternating between fast walking and jogging). With my ipod on my "upbeat" playlist, I alternated between walking one song and jogging one song.

How did I feel beforehand: Just getting started was the biggest struggle for me. Before I made the decision to get my exercise clothes on and grab my ipod before walking out the door, I kept thinking off all the reasons why I should just come right home (to take a shower, to check email, to drink my coffee, to waste time doing anything but walking). Then I realized that I have to make a different choice (which feels hard right now) until it no longer feels like a hard choice. My learned behavior in the morning has been one way and now I want to change that to incorporate time for moving my body.

How did I feel during: Actually pretty good for it being the first time out in awhile. I liked alternating between the walking and jogging because I like the variety. It also really helps me to have the upbeat music that I like. I did feel tired towards the end, but a very different tired then I've been feeling by not doing anything.

How did I feel afterwards: Awesome! I feel like I have so much energy and my mind feels clear.

Move My Body Goal

Today begins the 30-Day-Move-My-Body Challenge. I am officially tired of being tired. I am tired of complaining that I am tired. I am tired of having the time and flexibility in my schedule to regularly move my body, and just not doing it.

As a life coach who helps others in achieving their goals, you'd think that living my own would be simple. Yet, yes, there are still areas in my own life where I want to improve, feel better and make more positive and empowering choices. Moving my body is one of them.

I am not sure why today was the day. Maybe it's being inspired by witnessing my husband, who in just three weeks, has gone from playing hockey a couple times a month to getting up at 5:30 a.m. to exercise at least three days a week. So, while he was out running for the second day in a row, I was lying in bed (awake) thinking about how I *could* get up and do 20 minutes of pilates--but didn't.

Whatever the reason, today is the day! And I invite the thousands of you reading this (ha!) to join me. Here are the guidelines I am going by:
  1. Take it one day at a time.
  2. Shoot for 30 minutes or more.
  3. Plan how and when you will move your body the night before.
  4. Stick with the plan, but don't beat yourself up if you have to alter it (i.e. instead of a walk in the morning because it was raining, I danced with the kids before bed).
  5. Be creative and choose ways to move your body that you enjoy (jump rope, ride your bike, dance in the living room, do sit-ups while watching T.V., etc.).
  6. Track your progress to help you stay motivated.
And behind all of this is really the most important thing. I am doing this because I want to feel good--actually, feel better. I want to have more energy. I want to think clearer. I want to feel better in my clothes. I want to be healthier and happier.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Small action. Big relief.

It’s amazing how taking one rather small, simple action can provide you with such big relief.

After losing all our computer files a number of years ago when my laptop was stolen (and no backup had been done), my husband and I have been discussing the need for a regular backup process. Every so often one of us would burn certain files onto a CD, but with no regularity and we were never quite sure we were saving all that we needed.

When discussing the back-up issue with a friend a couple of months ago, he told me about an online site that he uses, I was intrigued by how simple he told me it was and the fact that for a relatively low monthly fee ($4.95, in fact), the program could be set up to run at a certain time every month without me even thinking about it.

Let me say right now that I get nothing for mentioning this service. It’s really just a testament of finding a simple, low-cost service which provides me a *great* deal of relief.

After asking this friend numerous times to remind me the name of the website (I don’t have the best memory), I finally requested that he send me the web address in an email so I wouldn’t forget again; which he did. And there it sat in my inbox for another couple of weeks.

Well, not anymore. This morning I found the email, clicked on the link, briefly reviewed the site, gave them my payment information, downloaded the software and now my computer is going through it’s initial backup process. Great. Done. Something else to check off my to-do list.

But what I am amazed about is the amazing feeling I have of a weight having been lifted from my shoulders. It wasn’t until I signed-up for this service that I realized how much *not* having any backup was weighing on me. In the back of mind I was carrying the concern (more like sheer terror) of what would happen if our computer crashed today.

Today was such a reminder about how taking the simple actions we keep putting off on the things that we don’t necessarily *want* to do but that we are thinking about anyway can free up mental and emotional energy. Now I can take that energy that went towards the, “What would we do if our computer crashed?” and direct it towards more of what I want in my life.

Maybe the will or home emergency kit I’ve been trying not to think about (but do anyways) should be next.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

How's your Attitude of Gratitude?

Focusing on what you are grateful for is not a new concept, but it’s a practice worth mentioning as it’s a key ingredient in one having a happier, more abundant life (and I don’t just mean money). When we focus on all the things—big and little—which we appreciate about our lives right now, we see and will experience more of those types of things. Too often we focus on what we don’t like, don’t have and don’t want to experience. Our mental energy gets caught in a state of worry, fear or dread for what may or may not come. Incorporating the practice of having an Attitude of Gratitude, even for just 5-10 minutes a day, can actually change your life.

Getting Started

The first step in living life with an Attitude of Gratitude is to create a way to easily adopt the practice into your life by making it a part of your regular routine. I recommend writing down your gratitude list because I believe there is power in getting words on paper. Plus, it becomes a nice little documentation of sorts as to what was going on in your life without writing any long journal entries. However, some people prefer (and get the same results) from running through a mental list of all they are grateful for while they are walking or showering or commuting to work. The when, where and how is less important then just doing it.

If you decide to write it down, choose a time of the day that makes the most sense for you. For me it’s become the last thing I do before I turn out the light and lay my head on the pillow. Set aside 5-10 minutes to go through a running list of all you appreciate and are grateful about the day and in that moment. These can be long, full sentences or short bulleted points—your choice. The important thing is to get them down and actually spend a moment feeling the gratitude for those things you are acknowledging.

Living It

This practice can and will shift your focus as to how you experience life. The more you integrate the above practice into your daily life, the easier it will become to go to a place of gratitude throughout the day. For many, this practice helps them see things from a more positive perspective in all areas of their life because they are training their mind to look for the positive, appreciate what feels good and attract more of those positive feelings to them. Like really does attract like!

For Moms

This is an especially important and valuable practice for moms, but one in which can all too easily go down the tubes because, um, honestly, when do you have time to add yet another to-do to your already l-o-n-g list?

Make the time! As moms, it’s way too easy to get caught up in our worries, concerns and challenges with our children. We can get so focused on there not being enough time to do it all, enough patience to get through another battle, enough energy to keep up and the list can go on and on. The funny thing is, by practicing your Attitude of Gratitude, you will often find that you begin to feel like you do have enough time, patience and energy and your experience as a mother shifts from ‘getting through the day’ to really enjoying the day.

Test it out. For one week, make time every morning or every night to jot down 5-10 things that you are grateful for and see what happens!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Transitioning into Motherhood with Grace and Ease

"April 29, 2005 -- The Transition from not being a mother to being a mother is a huge one—-and one that is not talked about adequately. I don't think anyone can be completely ready for the magnitude of the transition, but I do think that it would have been nice to be a little more prepared. I don't know if it has to do with age; like the longer you wait the more experience you have in living life without the child responsibly and so when the baby comes, it's such a drastic comparison from your pre-baby days.

I can remember longing for a baby; a cute, sweet baby that would be an expression of our love—a child to call my own. No way did I realize that attached to that miracle would be so many adjustments; so many emotions, both positive and negative. Not to mention a physical, emotional and mental challenge like no other.

So how does one make the transition from "career woman" to motherhood with grace and ease? Is it even possible? I'd like to think that I can figure that out through my own experience, trials, errors and intuition."

The above is a journal entry from when my daughter was just two months old. It is now two plus years later. Wow. Where has the time gone? Being a parent in the midst of caring for an infant is one of those times in your life where you feel like it's always going to be that way. And then you look back each month and then each year and realize that each stage is actually rather quick, and before you know it you are sitting at the dinner table having a conversation with your two year old about why birds don't wear diapers and get to poop on the ground.

Well, more than two years into it I can say that I have figured some things out. I am not sure how graceful it all looked or how easy it all felt, but I did make that initial transition from mother-less to mother-hood and have lived to tell about it. And here’s what I learned was the most important.

1. Recreating my definitions of success as a mother and a professional. The longer and harder I held onto old definitions or someone else's definitions the more overwhelmed and depressed I felt. Once I realized that I could choose how I want to show up as a mother, a wife and a professional (and I was willing the think outside the box), the more content and happier I became in all my roles.

2. Being gentle and compassionate with myself. Although everyone else was telling me to take it easy and not worry about being Super Woman with a new baby, my internal critic kept telling me that I wasn't doing enough and what I was doing I could be doing better. When I asked myself what I would be telling my best friend in the same situation, I realized that I was much harder on myself than I would be on anyone else.

3. Letting go of guilt, worry, comparisons, standards, judgment and perfectionism. Okay, I know this is a tall order, but it's so true. As new moms we can get so caught in what the experts say we should be concerned about, and how others are doing it, and what are the right ways versus the wrong ways to doing things. For many of us, we carry over the perfectionism that came in so handy as a professional, but which will drive us towards insanity if we hold on to as moms. There is no handbook for motherhood. And those books out there that claim they are, are only based on someone else's experience (just like this article). The relationship between mother and baby changes, evolves and grows so much throughout the first couple of years. To expect that we will know exactly what to do and how to respond in this new relationship and this new role...well, that really is insanity.

As I have continued to practice (I'll admit that sometimes I fall off the bandwagon) and follow these guidelines over the past couple of years, I have felt my confidence and enjoyment as a mother increase. I have also found that I am less concerned and judgmental about how other mothers are choosing their journey. For one thing I know for sure is that this is all just a series of stages—a blip on the lifetime line. And I want to look back on this series of stages, called motherhood, with feelings of joy, peace and gratitude and know that I did the best I could...and enjoyed it along the way!

Motherhood Defined

I had an emotional and revealing conversation with one of my oldest (and I don't mean by age; I mean I've known her since I was born) friends about my associations with motherhood and being around children, specifically, negative associations about being a mother to my child.

I don't really want to get into where I picked up the associations (thanks mom) because I think that is less important than being aware that they exist and acknowledging that they don't feel good, and making the choice to now select new, more positive associations.

I had never articulated it quite so clearly or bluntly as I did with my friend--doing so felt both sad and freeing.
Essentially, what I came to terms with is that I have viewed being a mother and being with children as a burden, a chore, something "to get through." Not all the time, but a lot of the time.

This one particular association (children = burden), has colored my view of motherhood. It has challenged my transition into this new role and has led to resentment towards my husband. It has impacted my involvement with friends and limited my requests for help with childcare (because if being with my child is a burden to me, it must be a burden to others).

I hate the feeling. I hate thinking, "What am I going to do to get through this day with Lindsay?" I hate assuming that my husband's position of being away more is more appealing than my role of being home more. This is not me at my core. This is a learned association that I have acquired from others.

Exercise of The Day
What is my new vision of motherhood?
How do I want to be as a mother and with my child?

Today I declare new associations around being a mom and being with my child!
  • I choose to be in the moment; present during my time with Lindsay; aware of what is going on; connected to the situation and her; engaged
  • I choose to be loving and compassionate
  • I choose to be in awe and inspired by her mind, her smile, her emotions, her curiosity and her love
  • I choose to be playful; to laugh and sing and be silly
  • I choose to be patient and to help create ease during our time together
  • I choose to be emotionally available and to listen to what she needs
  • I choose to be open and accepting to her individuality
  • I choose to be honest and revealing
Being a mother to Lindsay is a gift. It is an opportunity for me to tap into my own "inner child." It is an opportunity to play and laugh and sing and dance. It is an opportunity for me to learn more about myself. My time with Lindsay is an adventure. I am surrounded by people who want to share in caring and loving Lindsay and by opening myself to that help I give everyone a gift--especially Lindsay and me.

(I just found this entry, which I wrote November 1, 2006. It's amazing to look back at this and see how by declaring my new associations around motherhood I have changed my life. My time with my daughter, especially the two days during the week when it's just her and me, are full of laughter, learning, fun and intimate moments. What a lesson in making the choice to show up a different way.)

My Motherhood Mantra

man-tra (noun) a commonly repeated word or phrase.

As a way of helping to keep me grounded and remind me how I want to be as a mother I came up with the following Motherhood Mantra.

  • I will honor this stage of life.
  • I will define my own success based on how I feel.
  • I will let be gentle and compassionate with myself.
  • I will let go of guilt, judgments and perfectionism.
  • I will take care of me so that I can care for others.

I find this really working for me. This morning, after realizing that I had messed up by telling my 2.5 year old daughter that she could get out of bed because I thought it was 6:15 a.m. instead of the actual time of 5:15 a.m., I found myself lying beside her in her bed saying, "Be gentle and compassionate with myself. So I messed up. It's okay."

Instead of lying there trying to figure out how I was going to get her back to sleep or what was going to happen at daycare if she didn't go back to sleep, I instead enjoyed my time snuggling with my daughter's warm body. This doesn't happen often in our house since we've never been co-sleepers and we are pretty firm with our rules around each person sleeping in their own bed.

But this morning, at 5:15 a.m., I found myself having more compassion for my mistake in mis-reading the time, letting go of the guilt and honoring the special time that it provided for my daughter and me.

And what a pleasant surprise when she finally fell back to sleep.

If you want a copy of this Motherhood Mantra to put on your refrigerator, email me at "nicola (at)" [type out as normal email address with the "@" symbol] and I'll gladly mail a magnet to you. Or, better yet, consider creating your own Motherhood Mantra! If you do, please send me yours. I'd love to see what others come up with.)

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Easy Recipe of the Week: Slow Cook Pork Chops

I often get asked to share some of the easy, family-friendly recipes we use. Once a week I will post a new recipe that has been tried and approved in our house.

Pork Chop Dinner with Apples and Squash (from Betty Crocker's Slow Cooker Cookbook)
-4 servings-

1 small butternut squash (or two bags of fresh, cubed butternut squash from Trader Joe's)
3 large unpeeled cooking Apples
4 pork loin chops, 2/4 inch think (about 1 1/4 pound)
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

  1. Peel squash. Cut squash in half; remove seeds. Cut squash into 1/2-inch slices. (See why the pre-cut bags are so nice!)
  2. Cut apples into fourths; remove cores. Cut apple pieces crosswise in half.
  3. Remove excess fat from pork (I usually don't do this).
  4. Layer squash and apples in 3 1/2- to 6-quart slow cooker.
  5. Mix remaining ingredients. Coat pork with sugar mixture. Place pork on apples. Sprinkle with any remaining sugar mixture (we usually don't add all the mixture to cut down on some of the sugar).
  6. Cover and cook on low heat setting 8 to 9 hours or until pork is tender.

We usually add a simple salad or steamed asparagus with this and we are good to go. The other nice thing is that this dish is often better the second day, so we make enough for leftovers and don't have to worry about making dinner the next night!

How Time Flies

I was just looking over some photos from the past three years. Nothing like seeing a photo of your child when she was only days old to remind you how far you've come in just a matter of years.

Lindsay is now 2.5 years old and we just moved her into a new "big girl" bed this weekend. I can remember the first time I put her to bed in her crib. She was so tiny--wrapped like a burrito--laying in the middle of what seemed to be a HUGE crib. And now that same kid is sleeping through the night in a bed that not only she fits in, but that her mom and dad can squeeze into as well--all together!

As we contemplate trying for one more, we often get caught up in the practicalities and logistics of what another child in our lives would mean. Space, time, money, careers and sanity all come up as possible reasons why we shouldn't have another one.

But when we set all of that aside and look inward at what are hearts are's (nearly) a resounding, "Go for it!" What that means for our future and where we go from here are still yet to be seen, but as a woman who is enjoying having the Best of Both Worlds, that leads to a bit (Okay, sometimes a lot) of anxiety about how this will all play out.

I do stand firm in my belief that I can have a successful and rewarding career, as well as have the time and energy to enjoy my personal life. As I learn more and more about who I am, what I want and how to manage it all in a way that feels good to me (regardless of what others are doing or may think), I feel more confident that I can continue on this path regardless of whether another child comes into the picture or not.

I'll keep you posted!